Washington: Around 25,000 Indians have registered with the country's mission in the US for repatriation flights that will begin operating from Saturday (local time), Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu said, adding that in the first week, seven flights will take-off and a "continuous work" will be in progress to evacuate Indian nationals from here.
In an exclusive interview to ANI, Sandhu said: "So, we have a total of 25,000 people who have registered in the first week, we are going to take seven flights, and this will be a continuous work in progress, depending upon how the requirements come where the people wish to go in India, and what the local situation is allowing, both medically, as well as connections, and on that basis, we will continue further after the first week."
The first flight will be from San Francisco to Mumbai and Hyderabad on Saturday with 200 passengers on board. On May 10, an Air India flight from New York with 300 passengers on board will come to Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Later on May 11, passengers from Chicago will land in Mumbai and Chennai. Lastly, on May 12, there may be a flight from Washington DC to Delhi and Hyderabad.
"Mission Vande Bharat is starting with effect from today. The first flight will take off from San Francisco in a little while. And then we are going to have seven total flights from four different hubs. These are all the Air India hubs, and these flights are going to different cities of India," the envoy said.
When asked about the protocols been taken to ensure the safety of passengers and flight crew, Sandhu assured that Air India has taken all the necessary precautions and the embassy will ensure the implementation of Ministry of Home Affairs' directive regarding the travelling.
"Air India has taken all the necessary precautions. And there is a very clear Ministry of Home Affairs directive on that on the travel, that will be implemented. But before the passengers board the flight.
Their check-up will be done, and it will be ensured that people who are asymptomatic, they get on the flight, so as to ensure the health security of all also within the flight, there are certain arrangements and requirements, which Air India is taking care of," he said.
The envoy said that the mission will study the "evolving situation" for the next few days and according to that will carry out the next phase of the evacuation.
"As I mentioned that this is an evolving and a developing situation. At this time we have the first seven days, we will study that and continuously, then we can for the next seven days, and subsequently, if there is a need, you would also realize that. With the passage of time in India. There'll be certain relaxation for internal flights etc.
All those will be factored in. Plus, what kind of response we get, and how many passengers finally travel, 25,000 have registered. But finally, how many wish to travel. That's another factor that should be taken into account," he said.
Explaining the challenges being faced by the mission during the planning and executing the evacuation of Indians, Sandhu said: "So, challenges are all around.
There are people who fill the forms, but when they are picked up in a very scientific random lottery system which we are working when they are picked up the messages go to them they don't respond.
So, therefore, we have to again scientifically move ahead, but it has to be also ensured that the flights are full, and everyone who wishes to go can take advantage of this opportunity," he said.